Monday, November 13, 2006

The Rules of the Game...

Back in September, I wrote a bit of doggrel, called THE RULES OF THE GAME HAVE CHANGED that was set to music by Ecletech, Doghorse and Bo Bo'dor. The title (and refrain of the verses) was of course inspired by Tony Blair's famous statement in a press conference in August 2005 when he announced, ominously

'Let no-one be in any doubt, that the rules of the game are changing'

Today, the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust publishes a report called 'The Rules of the Game:Terrorism, Community and Human Rights' ( read it here on PDF)
The Telegraph writes ''The Government's anti-terrorism policy is being damaged by party political interests and vote-seeking on the part of ministers, a report has claimed.

The report singles out John Reid for particular criticism
It also
accused Tony Blair and John Reid, the Home Secretary, of playing to a "tabloid agenda" and "trying to win over the white working class vote."
Sensible plans to combat terror are now being "submerged by the Government's 'electoral motives'

The respected think-tank warned that anti-terror measures were having a disproportionate effect on Britain's Muslim community and risked alienating people who could play a vital role in defeating extremism"

The report says 'The fundemental point at issue, is whether new laws and oversight procedures are necessary for dealing with the changed nature of terrorism or whether such contrivances are merely politically cosmetic knee-jerk responses with no substantive adantages but with potential counter-productive disadvantages.'

Well quite. See Henry Porter, writing brilliantly (as usual) in last week's Observer to an incisive and powerful statement as to why we should preserve our civil liberties, even in a time of terror and what that might mean in practical terms.

Dame Eliza laid out the threat. Brilliant police work and keen intelligence caught Dhiren Barot, a murderous fanatic who planned to kill thousands. The threat is real. But it is not so very different to other threats we have faced before, and we did not rip up the rule book then. We do not defeat it by watching our politicians grandstanding and abusing State powers to cow and control the law-abiding many in order to catch the lawless, murderous few. Nor do we need to sink to the level of murderous fanatics by sanctioning brutality, torture, inprisonment without charge and wild bellicose rhetoric, unaccountable half-truths, whilst claiming that God is on our side.

And this latest report very sensibly makes this point in a timely fashion. Let's hope its sane message isn't drowned out by more tough-guy posturing during the forthcoming Queen's Speech, new attempts to get 90 days Internment back on the agenda, and yet more chest-beating from Reid and Brown about who's the Toughest on Terror.

As the US neo-cons unravel, you'd think the time for calmer voices calling for thoughtful debate would be heard. But politicians think they can win votes and leadership elections by swinging their dicks and stamping their feet and bellowing like gorillas with the tabloids gibbering a chorus.Until we stop indulging these macho ego-displays and grow up, we'll continue to get hysteria, fear, demonisation of Muslims and the febrile atmosphere of anger, suspicion and cynicism that such an explosive atmosphere brews.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Nor do we need to sink to the level of murderous fanatics by sanctioning brutality, torture, inprisonment without charge and wild bellicose rhetoric, unaccountable half-truths, whilst claiming that God is on our side."

But we already have. We ARE that, more so than the "OTHER SIDE". Just because we scream we are fighting for "freedom" and "democracy", doesn't mean we actually are.

As far as I can tell, we're doing our very best to continue to support murderous dictatorships whilst dismantling freedom and democracy in the western world.

Surely, you see that?


November 14, 2006 10:08 pm  
Anonymous rk said...

This kind of argument is not convincing partly because it confuses two separate “infringements” of liberty.

First of all there are extensions to the rules of detention. The 90-day proposal and the unanswered question of what do you do with an individual with no right to live in the UK who is nevertheless here and an identified (by intelligence, not evidence) as a terrorist. These measures do not help the Security Service to investigate terrorists, merely ensure that fewer of those identified as threats are out on the streets. I think it quite reasonable to argue as your link did against these threats to liberty and I want to put that to one side.

On the other hand there is the question of access to and retention of information. This is a key issue and I think allowing the use of this data in our defence is crucial. If you deny the police and intelligence agencies access to phone records, bank statements, credit card transactions, DNA, fingerprints etc then you materially impact their ability to catch criminals and terrorists. It is that simple. Dhiren Barot and others like him would not have been tracked down were it not for the Special Branch and the Security Service accessing information on completely innocent people. If you argue against the use of this information on a privacy point then you must accept the impact it has on security.

We have faced terrorists before but never have we faced so many that are prepared to carry out so much carnage. The IRA, the only other serious terrorist threat we have faced in mainland UK, never carried out an attack as lethal as 7/7 and these terrorists aspire to bigger attacks using any biological or chemical agent they can lay their hands on. The threat is therefore of a greater level than before.

The possibilities allowed by information are also greater than they have ever been before. A huge amount of data has been computerised over the last two decades. The power of this can be used by the police and intelligence agencies if we allow them. This cannot be denied by glib remarks that ‘old fashioned police and intelligence work’ are just as good. As someone with experience in this field I can assert it is nonsense. Technology has moved on and we have the choice to use it or not. If we do then there will be a perceived loss in liberty but there will also be a loss in security if we do not.

November 17, 2006 11:58 am  

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